It is virtually impossible to think of two more closely-related things than baseball transactions and Halloween. After all, the holiday falls just as the baseball offseason dawns. The wrong moves can haunt an organization for years, even decades. Why, even "Trick or treat" is nothing more than a trade offer turned catchphrase.
Accordingly, it is no surprise that baseball's history of moves is littered with fear-inducing tales of horror. Why, teams have traded for Jerry "Casper the Friendly Ghost" Adair and Rick Helling. Even "Bloody" Jake Evans terrorized four seperate clubs. In recent years, the Cincinnati Reds have drafted both Benjamin Mummy and Michael Monster. But to find the truly frightening, it is necessary to take a closer look at transactions occuring on that dedicated day for mayhem: Halloween itself.
Permit me to tell you a tale of a pitcher, Sterling Hitchcock, the namesake of Hollywood's greatest master of suspense. After the Cardinals acquired him in a midseason swap, he started eight games — but by the end of each, had disappeared. Then, on Halloween 2003, Hitchcock was granted free agency. A fresh start, right? Sure. That's what Scottie thought he'd get in Vertigo, too. Hitchcock joined the San Diego Padres, but was instead haunted by memories of his former team. He would have them dress up in red uniforms, referred to Tony Gwynn as "Stan the Man", and made Fredbird uncomfortable by suggesting "he probably tastes like chicken".
Now dim the lights low and prepare to be unnerved by an even more disturbing Halloween transaction. This time, Halloween 1997 was the time. The trade? Mike Bell from the Texas Rangers to the California Angels for the lethal name of Matt Perisho. For the Rangers in 1998, Perisho was stalked by a devastating walks-per-nine ratio of 14.4 — toxic for any pitcher. As for Mike Bell, merely by virtue of being associated with baseball's second-scariest trade made him a pariah, playing for organization after organization — Diamondbacks, Mets, Reds, Rockies, White Sox, Cardinals, Indians — without ever finding a home.
But the most shriek-inducing baseball transaction of all time has to be the deal (I assume signed in blood) that sent Leo Nunez from the Royals to the Marlins for Mike Jacobs on Halloween 2008. At least, the Marlins thought they were getting Leo Nunez… until things went horribly wrong. In the midst of a season in which he'd save 36 games, Nunez suddenly, without any warning… disappeared. Was it… murder?!? As it turned out, it was identity theft… most foul. Leo Nunez is really Juan Carlos Oviedo. And where is Leo Nunez? Still, to this day… nobody knows.
And things were no better for Mike Jacobs. If my interpretation of this scouting report is correct, Jacobs lost both of his legs in a grisly wheat-threshing accident. (Editor's note: Megdal wildly misintrepreted a scout's comment that Jacobs "simply doesn't walk." MLBTR regrets the error.)
So as Halloween approaches, you may be missing baseball already. You may be impatient to see your favorite team sign or trade for solutions to the problems that plagued the roster in 2011. But if you want my advice: should your team try to tinker with its roster on Halloween itself, be afraid. Be very afraid.